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Friday, May 29, 2015

Rant #1,448: How Now, Brown Cow?


Remember that saying?

If you were a child of the 1960s, you knew that saying.

What it meant is another thing, but everyone had heard that saying. (Further investigation is that the phrase originated in the 1920s, and has to do with proper elocution, with its rounded vowel sounds. Why it became a catchphrase in the 1960s is beyond me.)

Well, I am going to put my own 2015 spin on it, and adapt it for my own uses in this Rant today.

Here goes ...

How Now ... Are the Yankees In First Place In the American League East?: The Yankees are an awful team, with enough flaws that if they were a car, they would have been recalled several times already.

The team is awful, lost again last night, and really, as a barely over .500 team, how can they be in first place in their division?

Simple--the rest of the division is awful, too.

However, just a couple of games separate the Yankees and the bottom team in the division, so even with the awfulness, it could be an exciting summer for every team in this division, because in their collective awfulness, they all have a chance to win the division and go into the playoffs ...

Where they will probably get swept.

How Now ... Is It Not Yet Summer?: In my neck of the woods, we have been on a wild ride with the weather for several months. We have gone from the height of despair--a very cold, snowy winter--to the zenith of optimism--near 90 degrees yesterday.

Yet, we are only at the end of May.

The calendar tells us that we are a good three weeks away from when it actually hits summer--June 21 I believe--but we have been teased by having several days this month getting into at least the high 80s.

But we inevitably get real when those high temperatures are followed by lower temperatures in the 70s, and that is what is going to happen again this weekend.

So we aren't yet in summer, but we know it is coming. I just wish Mother Nature would stop teasing us.

How Now ... Can It Be a Year That I Have Had My Car?: I can't believe it, but I have had my car a solid year.

And it has been a solid year, at that.

No more accidents, no more clashing with insurance companies on my claim, no more nothing ... just steady driving.

I enjoy my car, but I do not enjoy the fact that my accident dumped on me a major bill each month that I did not know I was going to have. Now that I have it, I have to pay it, of course, but I could have lived without the fiasco I went through to get this car.

But with only a little more than 9,000 miles on it in its first year, I think I have taken good care of the car, and I hope it lasts me a lifetime.

I like the car, I just don't like the payments.

How Now ... Can We Have a Pope Who Condemns Israel?: Well, what else is new? The Vatican has condemned Israel for generations, so why should this Pope's thinking be any different than what prior Popes thought?

The Catholic Church abandoned Jews during World War II, and up until about 50 years ago, condemned Jews for killing Jesus. Do you think that these things would just go away?

With the current Pope basically giving his blessing to the Palestinians and Hamas, he is condemning Israel once again, but what is scary this time around is that he is continuing a Church prerogative to back terrorists against Israel, and we live in a world where the Vatican isn't the only entity that favors terrorists over democracy in that part of the world.

I don't get it either. But I know that Catholics both in the United States and around the world are smarter then their Pope, and often go against his beliefs in many areas.

I feel that they will do it once again in relation to Israel and its right to exist, no matter what the Pope says or does.

How Now ... Can Some People Find Facebook To Be So Important In Their Lives?: Facebook is simply an electronic meeting place for people to speak to other people, often allowing them to reconnect to those they haven't seen or heard from in years.

Yet some people use Facebook to justify their existence, putting up things that are open to discussion, and I do mean vehement discussion, and then take those to task who disagree with them.

My feeling is that if you put something up on Facebook, and it if rubs people either in a good way or bad way, then you have to expect both the praises and barbs.

Some people take great offense to the barbs, they just simply cannot understand how people can disagree with their viewpoint.

Isn't that why one puts something up, to spur discussion? Sometimes a "like" isn't enough to back your point, and sometimes, since there is no "dislike" button, you have to actually write out why you disagree with the point.

Some people try to prove the worth of their existence with Facebook; me, I use it, and have used it successfully, but you know what? If it goes away, I wouldn't be all that upset.

But for others, it appears to be their life's work to try to gain praise on Facebook.

Sorry, I just do not get it, I guess.

And that is the end of my "How Now" Rant today. Speak to you again on Monday.

Heck, by then, maybe some of this stuff will be cleared up ...

But I doubt it.

Classic Rant #100 (September 30, 2009): Accidental, My Foot!



The way words are used in our language is often tied into different trends that shape these words that we use. This also extends to the use of phrases that tie together words to have meanings that are also based on current trends.

Case in point is the use of the word “accidental” when referring to drug overdoses. If I hear “accidental” and “overdose” used in the same sentence one more time to lessen the gravity of what the drug user did to himself, I think I might inject myself with something.

Remember the case of Adam Goldstein, better known to some as DJ AM? He died “accidentally” from a lethal cocktail of prescription drugs and cocaine, the medical examiner's office recently ruled.

The toxicology report showed the 36-year-old had several drugs in his system, some illegal, some not, when he died: cocaine, OxyContin, Hydrocodone or Vicodin, anti-anxiety drugs Xanax and Ativan, Klonopin which also controls anger, Benadryl, and Levamisole, a drug apparently used to cut cocaine.

The cause of death was acute intoxication due to the combined effects the drugs, the medical examiner's office said. The dosage of each drug was not released.

To me, there is no such thing as an accidental overdose. If you use illegal drugs, or a combination of illegal drugs and supposedly legal ones, how can you consider the death accidental?

You are putting yourself in major harm’s way by using illegal drugs and mixing these drugs, and that is what Goldstein did. Sure, I don’t think his aim was to kill himself—although I don’t think that that was ever completely ruled out either—but that is what he did.

When you use illegal drugs, they are not regulated, so you could be getting different levels of “power” when you ingest these things. You might get a good dose, you might get one that is bad—and maybe even mixed with other substances. The bottom line is that you don’t know what you are getting.

And then mix these illegal drugs with supposedly legal ones—but ones that can become deadly without a doctor prescribing them or at least watching over their usage. Even over-the-counter drugs can be lethal if used the wrong way, as the cough syrup problem that was around a few years ago showed.

Since Goldstein dealt with the devil, so to speak, when he was ingesting all of this stuff, I wouldn’t call his death accidental.

He simply played Russian Roulette—and lost.

To me, that is not accidental. That is, more to the point, taking your life in your own hands. Goldstein may have been a superb DJ, but his spins of records led to his life spinning out of control, which led to his death.

Accidental? No. Stupid? Most definitely, Y-E-S.

P.S.: 100 rants! Here's to at least 100 more!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Rant #1,447: The Last Time At the Old Barn



This holiday weekend, not only did my son and I participate in the usual Memorial Day pursuits, we also attended a WWE show at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

This was the final, last wrestling show at the old barn, which will be coming down soon, to be replaced by a newer venue probably in about two years.

This was the final RAW show there, too, the company's most popular TV attraction, so it had some added significance.

Years from now, a lot of kids are going to say that they were at this event--the place was packed, as it has been for years at the Coliseum when the event is also shown on TV or is a pay per view attraction--but these young kids--including my own son, who is 19 years old--really don't have the type of perspective I have on the rise and fall of the Nassau Coliseum.


My perspective is so much different than what the younger people have, because I was, myself, a teenager when the place opened in 1972. I remember that this was such a state of the art venue back then that Long Island high school students were bussed into the place before it was completed so they could see what a marvel this place was. I was one of those kids, and I remember that the seating was not completed when we had our tour of the place.



Being newly transplanted from New York City--I had called Rochdale Village, South Jamaica, Queens, New York my home from 1964-1971--I was geared into Madison Square Garden as the do all and end all of such arenas of this type.

But now, with myself and probably thousands of other newly transplanted people from New York City starting to call Long Island home, we now had our own venue to call our own, and our own teams--the Nets and the Islanders--to also root for.


Not only did I see Nets and Islanders games at this arena, over the years I went to dozens and dozens of events--everything from World Team Tennis to indoor soccer to professional lacrosse ... I even saw my daughter graduate from Nassau Community College there.

I went to job fairs at the Coliseum, and even participated in a few industry functions that were held downstairs in the exposition center, including trade shows.


And yes, I did see wrestling there, probably one of the first such events they had there, I think it was in 1972 or 1973. Bruno Sammartino was the headliner.


So attending my last, final event there on Monday was something bittersweet for me, forcing me to look at the past as I try not to look at the future of this place.

As WWE Chairman Vince McMahon blew his final kisses to the Coliseum--as I mentioned, this has been their Long Island home since 1972--I realized that whatever we get here in place of the old arena, it simply will not be the same as what we had.

The Nets have been gone for years, the Islanders are following them to Brooklyn's Barclay's Center next season, the developer of the Barclay's Center is also developing this new, smaller venue ... it just isn't going to be the same.



There will be no anchor tenants as far as major league basketball and hockey are concerned, and at 13,000 seats, it is doubtful that any franchise will venture into this place, as it is way too small to house such teams. The developer, Bruce Ratner, has proposed that the venue be expandable to 16,000 seats, which is a good move, but with three hockey teams and two basketball teams operating in the metropolitan area, I cannot see any other team from the NBA and NHL moving there.

Ratner's original proposition had the Islanders playing a few games there each season, but the NHL never approved this, and why would they? They are trying to build up Brooklyn as a hockey market, why would they sacrifice six games a season to this new venue?

On top of it, Ratner and Blumenthal, the other developer of the property--plans are to put retail and housing on the site, as well as other facilities--are countersuing each other at the moment, so who knows if the shovel will ever meet the ground anytime soon?

The site just had its master plan passed by the Town of Hempstead, where it operates, so this would signify a go ahead to construction, beginning right after Billy Joel closes the place in August.

Whatever rises there, the new Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum won't be the venue that I will remember. It will not be the original arena, even though it will retain the same name.

With all the events I went to there, how could it be anything other than the old barn that will be in my thoughts?

Heck, it was the same way with the new Yankee Stadium. Nice place, but to me, it isn't really Yankee Stadium, just a new park using that name.

What more can I say? I will miss the old arena. It is part of my life, and nothing can replace the memories I have of this place.

Yes, new memories will be created by the new arena, but to me, it simply won't be the same.

For your viewing pleasure, here is the final wrestling pin of the final WWE match held at the Coliseum,  a non-televised match between Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt that took place immediately following the WWE RAW broadcast on Monday evening.

It was a fitting match to close out the past 40 years of pro wrestling at the old barn.

video

Classic Rant #99 (September 29, 2009): The Beatles Save the World!



To demonstrate that people still have some good taste in music, the re-release of the Beatles’ album catalog is sending people back to record stores and other places selling CDs.

EMI Group PLC says consumers in North America, Japan and the U.K. bought more than 2.25 million copies of the Fab Four's re-mastered albums in the first five days after their Sept. 9 release.

On Billboard's pop catalog chart, the band had 16 titles in the top 50, including all 14 re-mastered CDs and two box sets, one stereo, one mono.

The Beatles' original U.K. studio albums were released to coincide with the sale of "The Beatles: Rock Band" on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii, and the ploy is working to perfection; I will bet a good percentage of the purchasers of these CDs are younger than age 25.

And that is great. The generation that has been inundated with the likes of 50 Cent, Eminem, T.I. and countless other trash acts making garbage that today is called “music” is gravitating to music that really is music, music that says something, and music that has withstood the generations.

Yes, I am talking like an old fuddy duddy, but so be it. The Beatles’ music is timeless, and I am glad that a new generation is hearing, and grooving, to this stuff.

Yes, I know they are being introduced to it by playing a video game, but you know what, if that gets them, then that is fine. If that is the way they get to hear music that they would not normally hear, then I am all for it.

In fact, I am very proud, in a personal way, because the other night, my 14-year-old son asked me to download all of the Beatles’ LPs onto his iPod, which I already had, of course, and I happily obliged his new-found passion for the Fab Four.

And to make sure that he had everything, he rattled off about a dozen songs, and yes, they are now on his iPod …

Next to 50 Cent, Eminem and T.I., but heck, you have to start someplace.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Rant #1,446: Admittedly Self-Serving Plug



Yes, it is once again time to plug another site that I run that has nothing to do with this site, and nothing to do with Facebook.

It is my long-running Yahoo Groups site, Alternative Top 40.

Yahoo Groups, at this point in time, is one of the most maligned configurations on the Internet, and admittedly, it has brought a lot of this stuff on itself, by changing things way too much for most people to bear, fixing something that wasn't broken.

And then there is Facebook, which made it so much easier to post things like I do there ... but not quite.

Anyway, Alternative Top 40 is the place to find rare and unusual music tracks by some of your favorite artists, as well as some that you may not know too well.



The primary focus of the site is 1964 to 1971, the years that I consider the best in popular music, or at least, the best in rock music, or at most, the best in music in my life span which began in 1957.

Sure, some would argue with me, but the years that I have chosen run parallel to the Beatles' hit years in the U.S., so I will stay with the focus.

The site is a simple one.

I post usually between a dozen and 18 tunes each week, and members vote on the ones that they like the most. They can vote for up to six tunes each week.

The ones that garner the most votes remain available for another week; those that don't do as well are removed.

Simple as that.



On this week's chart, I have some interesting music; everybody from Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits fame with a solo recording to Zero Mostel doing a tune from "Fiddler on the Roof."

It is all there, and everything in between.

I usually put up a lot of single B sides, but I also put up many album tracks.



For instance, on this week's chart, I uploaded Tiny Tim's "Welcome To My Dream-Tip Toe Thru' the Tulips With Me," which are the first two songs which run together from his classic "God Bless Tiny Tim" LP, and I also have the Beach Boys' "There's No Other (Like My Baby)," which is the B side of "The Little Girl I Once Knew" single.



I also have A sides that have pretty much been forgotten, such as Lesley Gore's "All of My Life," a really good song that simply didn't make much of an impact on the charts 50 years ago.

Other artists on this week's chart include Ben E. King; Vanilla Fudge; Herman's Hermits; the Monkees; the Tokens; Donovan; Lou Rawls; Terry Knight and the Pack; and B.B. King.

About 75 percent of the recordings that I upload to the site are from my own collection, the remainder I obtain from other sources, including from members.

So please, take a look at the site. I think that you will enjoy it.

It can be accessed at https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/AlternativeTop40/info

Classic Rant #98 (September 28, 2009): Never To Be Forgotten Or Forgiven



On Sept. 24, Susan Atkins, a follower of cult leader Charles Manson whose remorseless witness stand confession to killing pregnant actress Sharon Tate in 1969 shocked the world, has died of brain cancer, making Atkins the first of the convicted killers to die. She was 61.

At the time of her death, she had been in prison longer than any woman currently incarcerated in California, and her passing comes less than a month after a parole board turned down the terminally ill woman's last chance at freedom on Sept. 2.

These murders were among the most vicious assaults ever documented, and cast a pall on the “mellowness” of the late 1960s youth movement embodied by the Woodstock generation.

Tate, the 26-year-old actress who appeared in the movie "Valley of the Dolls" and was the wife of famed director Roman Polanski, was one of seven murdered in two Los Angeles homes during the Manson cult's bloody rampage in August 1969.

Atkins confession from the witness stand rankled the public. Among her quotes while on the stand was that she had no remorse for what she did because (and I paraphrase) “I did it with love.”

Atkins subsequently apologized for her acts numerous times over the years, saying that finding Christianity had given her a new perspective on the acts that she had committed.

Nonetheless, she never won parole, even while on her deathbed. In fact, Tate’s younger sister recently said that Atkins did not deserve parole because she had lost out not only on having her sister, but she had lost a nephew that would have been 40 years old this year due to Atkins senseless rampage.

If memory serves me correctly, Atkins was sent on her mission to not kill Tate, but to rub out music producer Terry Melcher, Doris Day’s son.

Melcher, a big-time producer at Columbia Records who did work with numerous acts including Paul Revere and the Raiders, had had conversations with Brian Wilson about possibly recording the music of a very young Charles Manson. When nothing came of the idea due to a violent confrontation that both Melcher and Wilson saw between Manson and another man, Manson became further outraged, and vowed to get Melcher.

Melcher had lived at the address Atkins was sent to by Manson, but had recently moved out with his then girlfriend, Candice Bergen. Polanski and Tate rented the house, and reportedly were not targeted; they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Anyway, Atkins passing will be a cause for joy of many people. Her callousness on the witness stand is permanently etched in many memories, and although she was not a troublesome prisoner, she and her cohorts belong behind bars as long as they live, as does Manson, who people forget never killed anyone—but his manifestations of being God as well as the ringleader of this band of drugged-out leeches cannot ever be forgiven anytime soon.

Classic Rant #97 (September 25, 2009): Baring One’s Soul On National TV



When people like you and I have burdens to bare, we often lookto our friends, relatives and loved ones as people who will offer a shoulder to cry on.

When celebrities have their burdens, they write books and go on network television to vent their frustrations.

The latest celebrity to go this route is Mackenzie Phillips, the former child star and long-time drug abuser, who recently went on Oprah Winfrey’s daily gabfest to not only push her book, but also to tell the world a deep, dark secret: she had had a long-term inappropriate relationship with her father, John, the leader of the classic Mamas and Papas pop group.

Phillips said she had been abused for many years, to the point that the relationship had become consensual. It was only terminated because Phillips became pregnant, and thought her father might have sired the child (she had been married during this period, so it was either her husband or her father).

If what Phillips said is true, it is a devastating admission about her relationship with her dad. Of course, he is not here to defend himself, and her credibility as a long-time drug abuser has to be questioned.

That being what it is, why is Phillips using the Oprah show as a platform to tell the world about this supposed experience? Is she doing it to hawk a book, or is she doing it to “come clean” to the public at large? Is she doing it to revive her career, or to help other women come out with their own admissions?

Whatever the case, celebrities going on national TV shows to air their dirty laundry is nothing new. Just a week before Phillips, Whitney Houston came out with her own stories about her relationship with Bobby Brown.

And, of course, she came out with these admissions as her new album was being released.

You just have to wonder why celebrities feel the need to unload their feelings in front of millions of people. First off, why not do this with a licensed therapist that can help you deal with these feelings? The last time I looked, Oprah did not have this attribute on her resume.

Secondly, what are the celebrities’ motives for doing this and are the hosts of these shows going for ratings or are they truly concerned for these people?

I do not understand why celebrities’ skeletons in their closets are not handled in a better way. Why must they come on these shows and air their dirty laundry like they do?

Again, I don’t know if Phillips’ story is credible or not. Based on her past, there are lots of questions to be asked about this, and again, her father is not here to defend himself.

But that doesn’t excuse celebrities from using these shows as their own pulpit, not only to expunge some demons but to sell some product.

To me, it just isn’t the right thing to do.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Rant #1,445: So Went Memorial Day Weekend

Yes it did, and the holiday went very quickly.

It was kind of a tough time for my family during what is traditionally thought of as "the beginning of summer," even though it really isn't.

My wife worked the entire weekend, save yesterday, thank goodness, so my son and I didn't see enough of her during this brief hiatus.

We did see my daughter, with whom we celebrated her 27th birthday. She claims she is getting closer to 30, and bemoans that "fact." I tell her wait to complain when you get close to 60, like I am, and then I will listen to you.



That was a high point, as was my annual Memorial Day barbecue--we had one of the best ones in ages yesterday, what with the weather and the food that I cooked, all were top-notch--as was what my son and I did in the evening, which I will tell you about later this week.

But it was a tough weekend for us.

My father in law went into the hospital just before the holiday with a broken hip. He broke the other one a few years ago, so now the good side of him is the bad side and vice versa.

He was operated on two days ago, seems to be in good spirits but a bit drawn, and I am sure he will be OK.

About the same time, my nephew--my youngest nephew--had an appendix attack, and had to have it removed.

When I spoke to him, he seemed in a bit of discomfort just a few hours after the operation, but he is also in good spirits and he will be OK.

So we spent some time in the hospital visiting my father in law, and spoke about the hospital with my nephew.

Not the funnest place to be or to talk about.



Then, although not a personal tragedy, we heard about the death of Anne Meara.

Best known from her pairing with husband Jerry Stiller in the Stiller and Meara comedy team--and the mother of Ben Stiller--she passed away this weekend.

Growing up in the 1960s, she was every Jewish family's favorite "shiksa," or non-Jewish wife of a Jewish man.

Usually, that term is derogatory, but in her case, it really wasn't.

The team were on "The Ed Sullivan Show" three dozen times, and they played off of that "mismatch" with a lot of humor and a lot of understanding.

She was an Irish Catholic, he was a New York Jew. He was also about six inches shorter than she was. 

Sullivan loved them because their situation replicated his own in reverse--he was Irish, his wife was Jewish--and they were genuinely funny.

Everyone loved them, and this evolved into one of the favorite acts on that show, only to break up at about the same time that the Sullivan show went off the air.

No, they still were married, but each one of them wanted to act, not to do the comedy team thing anymore, and for the past 40-some years, that is what they had been doing as they watched son Ben emerge as a major comedy star on his own. They also have a daughter in the business.

But whatever the case, when you think of Anne Meara, you think of Jerry Stiller, and vice versa, and I bet to her dying breath that she was fine with that.



And there was one more good point, the retirement of Bernie Williams' number by the Yankees. The Yankees are a lousy team today, but Williams helped elevate them to something very special during his playing days in the 1990s and early 2000s.

It is a well deserved honor.

Now, it is back to work day for most of us, but ironically, my wife has the day off, so once again, we are like two passing ships in the fog, close but never quite meeting together.

At least we have the upcoming weekend, but no, wait, I forgot, she is working this Sunday.

Well, at least we have Saturday.

Classic Rant #96 (September 24, 2009): Hall of Shame



Kiss, LL Cool J, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Genesis, Jimmy Cliff, the Hollies, songwriter Laura Nyro, Donna Summer, Darlene Love, ABBA, the Chantels, and the Stooges have all been nominated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

For what it is worth, this is a pretty weak class. You don’t really have any stand-out performers, and as far as “influences” — the term that the HoF uses to classify the significance of the performers who are nominated and those that get in — there really isn’t much of that here.

Personally, I would like to see the Hollies and Laura Nyro make it. I think they have made enormous contributions to rock and roll in their own way.

During their heyday, I don’t think the Hollies made a bad record. They had a substantial number of hits in the U.S. — “Bus Stop” “The Air That I Breathe,” and “Long Cool Woman In a Black Dress” among them — although they were better known in Europe and elsewhere. They featured one of the most underrated lead voices in rock, Allan Clarke, was the starting point for Graham Nash, and still tour and put out new records today, albeit with just two original members, Tony Hicks and Bobby Elliott.

And as for Nyro, although it would be a posthumous honor, I think it would be well deserved. She was the hot songwriter of the late 1960s and early 1970s, and the songs that she wrote encompassed rock, soul, pop, Tin Pan Alley and Brill Building influences. Just a short list of her biggest songs — “Eli’s Coming,” “Save the Country,” and “And When I Die” among them — should guarantee her spot, and her influence on other female singer-songwriters such as Carly Simon and even Alicia Keyes is enormous.

Since a total of five go in each year, I will have to pick three more: Darlene Love, and maybe Genesis, and after that, I really don't know. Maybe Jimmy Cliff for his reggae influence, but I don’t think he’s a lock.

Of course, as long as Jann Wenner is running the show, you can bet Kiss, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and LL Cool J will get in. Let’s not forget the Dave Clark Five fiasco, when Grandmaster Flash was substituted because Wenner wanted a rap act in. He gave in the next year, and the DC5 entered the HoF, but the bad vibes are still there.

My question: if Kiss is even nominated, how come acts like the Monkees (where Kiss learned their marketing) and Paul Revere and the Raiders (another marketing model) are not in the mix?

Oh, that's right. I forgot.

It's Jann Wenner.